The Iran Nuclear Deal: True Believers Practicing Pseudo-journalism

August 26th, 2015 · 1 Comment · Fact Check, foreign policy, journalism, Uncategorized

By Arthur Alpert

Respectable newspapers build walls to ensure a separation between the owners’ political opinions and the news operation. That is why, to take a current example, nobody is much surprised when the N.Y. Times (establishment liberal) breaks the story that Hillary Clinton (establishment liberal) used a private email server.

A newspaper lacking such a partition forfeits respect; in fact, it probably needs to be re-categorized as a political tract.

This describes the Albuquerque Journal, of course, where editors routinely make “ news decisions” that further management’s politics. But you knew that.

I want to explore today what I’ve concluded after reading our morning daily closely for more than three years, that the newspaper’s journalistic malfeasance comes in two strains; I call them the “Practical” and the “True Believer.”

The newspaper’s seemingly disorganized, incoherent coverage of the races for the Democratic and Republican Presidential nominations qualifies as practical, by which I mean deliberate, considered and a means to an end.

Surely you have grasped the game plan. Pound Hillary Clinton every day. Ignore Sen. Sanders except when he can be used to denigrate Mrs. Clinton.

In the other race, the candidates are sacrosanct; speak no ill of them. Well, with two exceptions. There were the early slaps at Jeb Bush, a reminder this is not your father’s GOP Establishment Albuquerque Journal. The second is current, serious and ongoing, a campaign against Donald Trump conducted mostly in the opinion pages but reinforced by an editorial.

I don’t know why the Journal is anti-Trump. Management may object to his obnoxious comments about Hispanic immigrants for fear American Hispanics will punish the GOP. It may worry that voters will notice how the rank-and-file has cheered his bigotry. Of course, the Journal may just be reaffirming its ties to the anti-Trump Koch brothers or, maybe, management fears candidate Trump would lose the general election.

Whatever the reason, this (journalistically reprehensible) treatment of the candidates is, as I suggested, eminently practical, intended to promote the Journal’s oligarchic ends. Which distinguishes it from the Journal’s treatment of the president’s nuclear deal with Iran. Here, the editors reveal (and impose upon readers) great ignorance and moral certainty, marks of the True Believer.

Before I demonstrate how, please understand I don’t expect the newspaper to agree with me politically. No, it can hold fast to its long-held neo-conservative and militaristic beliefs and argue for them in editorials. The most basic journalistic responsibility, however, requires that it report the story accurately, with as much detail and context as possible.

Sadly, the Albuquerque Journal has done almost the contrary.

I say sadly because this is not a picayune issue, it’s not about friends getting state contracts and jobs. This is life and death.

At least that unlikely pair, President Obama and columnist Cal Thomas, the far right evangelical Christian and former VP of the Moral Majority, seem to agree it is this deal or war.

Yet with lives on the line, our local daily once again skews its reporting to fit its political agenda.

Let’s begin with what the Albuquerque Journal has not found worthy of publication:

Aug. 8, the New York Times reported “29 U.S. Scientists Praise Iran Nuclear Deal in Letter to Obama”.

This was reporter William J. Broad’s lead:

“Twenty-nine of the nation’s top scientists — including Nobel laureates, veteran makers of nuclear arms and former White House science advisers — wrote to President Obama on Saturday to praise the Iran deal, calling it innovative and stringent.”

Hmm. Editors at the Albuquerque Journal didn’t find newsworthy what scientists, including nuclear physicists, think of the deal.

If that’s hard to grasp, just wait; a few graphs down their news judgment becomes downright weird:

“Also signing is Siegfried S. Hecker, a Stanford professor who, from 1986 to 1997, directed the Los Alamos weapons laboratory in New Mexico, the birthplace of the bomb. The facility produced designs for most of the arms now in the nation’s nuclear arsenal.”

A local angle, for gosh sakes! Believe me, no news editor in history would pass on the opportunity to make one phone call to Sig Hecker and thereby bring home a major world story!

Ah, but maybe there was no editor in the area, only the Journal political commissar whose existence we’ve often hypothesized.

Moving right along, note that the Journal’s lack of interest in what top scientists think of the Iran nuke deal is matched by its yawns when ex-Pentagon brass weigh in.

“Three dozen retired generals and admirals released an open letter Tuesday supporting the Iran nuclear deal and urging Congress to do the same.

Calling the agreement “the most effective means currently available to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons,” the letter said that gaining international support for military action against Iran, should that ever become necessary, “would only be possible if we have first given the diplomatic path a chance.”

I guess you know what’s next. And you’re correct. The Journal didn’t publish that story either. Hey, who needs professional military advice on national security issues?

Let me buffer that last sentence. Journal editors do respect generals (and politicians) who favor war now. They’re just wary of military leaders who figure it should be a last resort. But that is another post.

Before leaving the account of the military guys backing the nuke pact, we should note the Journal did run an Associated Press piece Aug. 11, headlined “Kerry, top Democratic senator spar on Iran deal, sanctions”.

It dealt almost entirely with the Secretary of State’s differences with N.Y. Senator Charles Schumer. In the 13th paragraph, however, reporters Bradley Klapper and Deb Riechmann inserted the news that “36 retired generals and admirals released an open letter on Tuesday urging Congress to back the deal.”

And though I’m not perfectly certain, I believe this piece ran only on the Journal’s website.

OK, we have established that the Journal’s basic news coverage of the Iran nuke deal included no mention that top scientists backed it and almost none that Pentagon types did likewise.

A prima facie case of journalistic incompetence, yes, but it gets worse.

There is a sub-plot here, about what American Jews, famously resolute protectors of Israel, think of the deal. In fact, though the Journal overlooked it, a majority of American Jews votes, “Yes.”

That, at least, is what J Street, an American Jewish organization in favor of the deal, found in two polls. The second, released July 28, showed a full 60 percent of American Jews approving it.

“Not only is that still a clear majority,” wrote Talia Benamy, co-chair, “but it is, in fact, a higher majority than the general American public…..”

Of course, as NY Times columnist Roger Cohen noted in an essay Aug. 17, several American Jewish organizations oppose the deal. “But…it’s unclear how representative of American Jews as a whole these organizations are.”

Summing up, Cohen, a Jew, writes:

“Rather than listen to Netanyahu, American Jews should listen to the longest-serving Jewish member of the House, Sander M. Levin, who supports the agreement because it is “the best way to achieve” the goal of preventing Iran from advancing toward a nuclear weapon, so making the Middle East and Israel “far more secure.” They should note that five Jewish senators have come out in favor.

“In the real world, this is the best achievable deal for America and the ally, Israel, it would never forsake.”

Hold on. Reading the Journal, I didn’t know about Sander Levin or the five Jewish Senators who back the deal.

The Journal has reported more than once on Sen. Schumer’s doubts, but Michael Coleman didn’t mention Levin or the Jewish senators in his otherwise solid column of Sunday, Aug. 9.

Nor did the anonymous author of an editorial Tuesday, Aug. 22.

And the Journal took no notice when Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a prominent New York Jewish Democrat, backed the deal.

Here’s the roll call as of Aug. 17, from Ron Kampeas of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency:

“There are 28 Jewish members of Congress: 26 Democrats, one independent who caucuses with the Democrats and one Republican. Nine of them are senators and 19 are representatives.

“Nine back the Iran deal, seven oppose it and 12 are undecided.”

So much for the Journal’s misreporting of the American-Jewish sub-plot, except to note that a news editor on the premises might have assigned a reporter to gauge the opinions of Jewish Americans living in Albuquerque or elsewhere in our state.

With apologies to Richard III, “A news editor, a news editor. My kingdom for a news editor.”

Not incidentally, the Journal also has never mentioned the Israeli defense and security officials who favor the deal. Nor what Republican Henry Paulson told the Aspen Institute as reported by  John Harwood in an Aug. 18 N.Y. Times dope story headlined “Divisions and Inertia in Congress May Hand Obama a Victory on Iran Deal”. Paulson, George W. Bush’s Treasury secretary, said:

“It’s totally unrealistic to believe that if we backed out of this deal that the multilateral sanctions would stay in place.”

Let’s stop here and recapitulate. We have dealt only (and not comprehensively) with how the Albuquerque Journal has reported the news on the Obama nuke deal with Iran, yet its irresponsibility is clear. This happens when True Believers dominate journalistic institutions, which ideally rely on doubt and skepticism.

But, as the late-night TV pitchmen say, “Wait, there’s more.”

Sadly, what I have to add is not another handy-dandy kitchen appliance for the same low price. The bonus is that the True Believers have plumbed a new low in pseudo-journalism over the last few days.

But I am tired, so it will have to wait until later in the week.

Tags: ···················

One Comment so far ↓

Leave a Comment